Commentary

If It Walks and Quacks Like a Duck...the Truth About That Federal Vaccine Database

By Jenny Beth Martin | December 10, 2021 | 5:11pm EST
Numerous employers have started requiring employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)
Numerous employers have started requiring employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week, 80 House Republicans – the vast majority of whom want their constituents to believe their congressman opposes President Biden’s vaccine mandates – nevertheless crossed party lines to vote with every Democrat for H.R. 550, a bill that would make enforcement and implementation of those vaccine mandates easier. And now, challenged by their constituents to explain their votes in support of the bill, many of them are not telling the truth about the bill and what it does.

That’s wrong. 

The “Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act” would provide $400 million “for grants to expand, enhance, and improve immunization information systems administered by health departments and used by healthcare providers,” in the words of Democrat Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who spoke on the House floor last Tuesday in support of the measure.

"Immunization information systems, also known as IIS, or immunization registries,” he continued, “are confidential, population-based, computerized databases that record immunization doses administered by providers to patients…IIS also helps patients and healthcare providers by allowing them to view a secure, consolidated immunization history, helping them determine appropriate and necessary vaccinations, and reminding patients about vaccination schedules.” 

Pallone should know what he’s talking about – he’s the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. 

So the chairman of the relevant committee, speaking in support of the legislation on the floor of the House immediately prior to the vote on the measure, said the bill would authorize federal grants of hundreds of millions of dollars to “expand, enhance, and improve” what he acknowledges are “computerized databases that record immunization doses administered by providers to patients” and which contain what he calls “a secure consolidated immunization history,” clearly recorded on a patient-by-patient basis. 

Why is this important? Said Pallone on the House floor, “it's important that the systems used by physicians are able to communicate with the State and local public health departments, and that these systems can also communicate with other States and the CDC.” 

So by supporting this legislation, a Member of Congress is supporting an effort to modernize and enhance the data-recording and data-sharing capabilities of health providers, health departments, state and local agencies, and the CDC (a federal government agency), all with a view to keeping better track of who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t (indicated by the concern over “reminding patients about vaccination schedules,” in Pallone’s words). 

You might call it, for lack of a better term, a “federal vaccination database.” 

Except if you did that, you’d be called a liar by the Republican staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which recently posted this deceptive item, claiming what it calls “the facts about H.R. 550,” which include “this bill has nothing to do with vaccine mandates,” “this bill does not create a federal vaccine database,” and “this bill makes sure information in state-run systems is kept private.”    

In fact, the bill does none of those things. 

Does the bill have “anything to do with vaccine mandates”? Yes, of course it does. By making data-recording and data-sharing easier, it enhances the ability of the federal government, or any state or local government, to know who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t. That information should be privileged, a matter of personal and confidential concern between a patient and his or her doctor. 

Does the bill “create a federal vaccine database”? Maybe not in so many words, but by enhancing the ability of state and local governments and health providers to communicate with the CDC, it creates the ability for the federal government to lash all the individual state, local, and private databases to one another, and gives the federal government the functional equivalent of a vaccine database. 

Does the bill "make sure information in state-run systems is kept private”? Most assuredly not – the whole point of the exercise is to enhance data-sharing with the CDC. “Keeping information private” and “sharing information” are the exact opposite of one another, and there’s no sneaky combination of words that can change that. 

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.… 

The Republican staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee should not have published what it has and the 80 Republicans who voted for H.R. 550 should not have done so. 

The simple fact is, the grassroots don’t trust the government about COVID – they don’t trust government about how to treat the disease in the early stages, they don’t trust government on the vaccine mandates, and they don’t trust that a federal vaccine database won’t be used against them. In fact, they don’t even think building such a database is a proper function of government.

And they’re right.

It’s none of the government’s business what we do with our healthcare. The sooner House Republicans get that, the better off for all of us. 

Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of Tea Party Patriots Action.  

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